Friday, 11 July 2014

Texts on Pinhas and Violence



Texts I’m using at New London Synagogue over Shabbat.

Big HT to Rav Shai Held from Hadar


John Collins

Terrorist hermeneutics can be seen as a case of the devil citing scripture for his purpose, it is [nevertheless] also true that the devil does not have to work very hard to find biblical precedents for the legitimation of violence.


Numbers 25:12


Talmud Sanhedrin 82a

Rav Hisda said: If the zealot comes to take counsel [about whether to kill in the case of cohabiting with an idolator], we do not instruct him to do so. What is more, had Zimri forsaken his mistress and Pinhas slain him, Pinhas would have been executed on his account; and had Zimri turned upon Pinhas and slain him, he would not have been executed, since Pinhas was a pursuer [seeking to take his life].


Ha-Emek Davar (Netziv d. 1893)

God blessed him with the attribute of peace, that he should not be quick - tempered or angry. Since it is in the nature of Pinhas' action - killing human beings with his hands - to leave an intense emotional unrest in the soul afterwards... the blessing he received was to be in a state of peace and tranquility


Amud Ha-Emet, p. 42 (Kotszke Rebbe d. 1859)

Having seen Pinhas' zealousness for God's name... Moses thought, 'A zealot cannot be the leader of Israel.'" Therefore Moses turned to God to find an alternative. [Num 27:16-18, Moses asks God to identify a leader, looking over the ‘claim’ of Pinhas. God elects Joshua].


Genesis Rabbah 60:3

Was Pinhas not there to annul his vow? Rather, Pinhas said: 'He needs me, and I should to go to him?! Moreover, I am the High Priest and the son of the High Priest; shall I go to an ignoramus?' While Jephthah said: 'I am the chief of Israel's leaders, and I should go to Pinhas?!' Between the two of them the young woman perished" [Commenting on the story of Commander and Chief  Jeptha (Judges 11), who promised to offer up as a sacrifice the first thing he saw on coming back from war, if victorious. As he returns his daughter comes to greet him, and he offers her.]


Pirkei Avot 4:1

Ben Zoma used to say, who is a hero – the one who conquers their inclination to anger.


Rav Shaul Yisraeli, Mercaz HaRav, aftermath of Kibiya 1953

‘There is a place for acts of retribution and revenge against the oppressors of Israel. … They are responsible for any damage that comes to them, their sympathizers, or their children. They must bear their sin.  There is no obligation to refrain from reprisal for fear that it might harm innocent people, for we did not cause it.  They are the cause and we are innocent.


Yeshayhu Leibowitz , After Kibiya

[The attack can be defended with reference to Rabbinic tradition] but let us not try to do so. Let us rather recognize its distressing nature.’ [Leibowitz compared Kibiya’s destruction to the Biblical tale of Dinah. He claimed the brothers] had a decisive justification [for launching the all-out raid]. Nevertheless, because of this action, their father Jacob cursed the two tribes for generations…Let us not establish [the modern State of Israel] on the foundation of the curse of our father Jacob!


Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner speaking at Embassy of Israel Vigil, 3rd July

One rabbinic friend reminded me of a piece in the Jerusalem Talmud in which Rabbi Akiva warns against vengeance, he explains that vengeance is like one hand of the same body wounding another. Humanity is one, by vengeance, we damage ourselves.


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